Sometimes, at end of day, but not of care, Mozart or Beethoven our aural food, Her hand reaches into empty air, A tactile search for something understood; This is a nurse’s hand, a hand that heals, And yet, the reaching gives no hint of sense, No hint revealing what it is she feels, But still, incarnate eloquence. Perhaps it is within these vacancies That meaning lies. Or in the mystery Surrounding us in health, and in disease. Perhaps Alzheimer’s gives epiphany. She reaches her hand into the empty air; Who dares to say that there was nothing there?
Winter dawn pinks even this dirty air, here where the currents of the world stall between mountain ranges. We awaken inhaling fumes and dust, the calls of crows, breath and prayers from around the globe.
A child in church, I knelt with the congregation, leaned into the wails of women around me pleading for the son lost to Chicago, for Hiroshimo’s victims, the girl with the iron lung. They would begin on a pitch around middle C and slowly rise with arched phrases into a high tremolo toward the amen, as though reaching to heaven.
Now the sun tears the gray veil, and doves repeat their soft, low moaning, for heaven is nearer than we think—in the undersides of leaves and in their shine, warmth on my shoulder, scent of bread. Even in that sick, black night when a man stood in the center of the lane, his arms out, pleading for the headlights to come in, as we stood beside him, now in a silent heap, his boots flung off, as we breathed “mercy,” as we breathed “help.”
Listen! And hear the whispers of uprisings all about you, springing not from the blood of desperation, revolt from under the grinding heel of emperies; grounded instead in eastering earth and its hovering Spirit. Conspiracies of roots and bulbs and seeds! And who knows what under the stones the worms are up to?
Since time flies one way like an arrow, the sugar can’t be stirred out of your oatmeal and no matter how long the murderer sobs on the median strip—sorry!—he can’t reverse his swerve, cannot rescind his drink
before the crash. Like him, was Jesus heartsick to find history’s not a zipper running both ways? He who loved eternity—its roominess, its reversibility—as he grew up, did he have to learn he never could unsay a thing
he’d said? And yet today, like all Good Fridays, He hangs on the cross again. On altars he hangs. On necklaces. His death is like an x that rides the wheels of time to come again in ritual, that miniature eternity, that spring
re-sprung. Dear God, there in your big eternity, remember that your hands and feet can never be unscarred again. Hear these words spoken by a body that suffers, by a tongue that will stiffen soon and be gone.
Have mercy on us who love time. May this prayer be a tire that rolls over every inch of the way to find You. May it be a bell which can never be unrung.
Michael Izbicki grew up in a nondenominational church in California. A National Merit Scholarship finalist, he chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy out of a sense of duty to his country during a time of war. At the naval academy he began to doubt whether the career to which he had committed himself could be squared with the tenets of just war doctrine. He got in trouble when he responded no to this exam question: "If given the order, would you launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?" After a four-year legal battle, the navy discharged him as a conscientious objector. Izbicki may have to reimburse the service for part or all of his education (New York Times, February 22).